Archive for the ‘Service’ Category

Lessons in Leadership from Open Source

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

I would like to see a comparison one of these days between nations and open source projects in terms of how they are governed. There is much variety amongst open source projects in systems of government, including consensus (subversion), voting (debian), and benevolent dictatorship (python).

The video features lead developers from the subversion project, which has a consensus based community. During the presentation, they state that voting should be a last resort.

“If you find yourself voting on everything all the time then something is wrong, and you need to be more introspective. Voting means there is a winner and a loser … People need to learn how to make compromises, and hopefully you are bringing people into your community who are the kind of people who like to make compromises and are willing to deal with that.”

This is a gem of a comment to me, because it encapsulates so much of what I think is the problem with many communities – the lack of a common desire for sincere consensus. Many other significant points like this one are discussed, and I highly recommend watching the video.

Motifs in Science

Sunday, October 15th, 2006

I am planning a course for MIT’s IAP period next year. The course will be about patterns that keep coming up over and over again in the physical sciences.

The ideas that I have come up with so far will be on a page of the same name on this blog.

Update: Have given up on the course, think that a website would be a better use of time. 


Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

“I would also really like to caution against the type of logic that “I don’t think they understand the … enough to make such suggestions.” exemplifies. By saying that, one is evaluating the validity of a statement purely on the basis of who said it, and not on what was said.

The idea that people should be restricted only to comments within their own specialties, and leave the thinking to the “experts”, is a very dangerous one. If that statement is accepted, the discussion might end right here, since it isn’t clear that any of us ‘understand enough’.

Discussion still continues though, because there is more to words than authority – there is reason.”

Morris Chang’s Pessimism

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

Good Evening,

I believe many of you were at tonight’s panel. I was particularly struck by Morris Chang’s comments about the inevitable stalling of China’s economy in the same manner as Taiwan, due to Cultural reasons. I agree with him. I have thought about that question and come to the same conclusion in the past.

It is my hope that we can raise some kind of coherent, rigorous conversation about cultural weaknesses amongst the Taiwanese at MIT. As Wei-Chuan has said, as of right now the organization seems to know only eat-eat-drink-drink, and does little else. There is no conversation and no common consciousness. I would like you to consider the desirability and possibility of change in this aspect.

I do not think that we are bad at having opinions. What’s weak is the ability to develop those opinions. There is an excess of the tolerance for relativism, and on important issues disagreeing people seem to be unable to speak to each other. In the absence of meaningful disagreement, agreements are shallow and only joined by coincidence of name, as opposed to some deep generating principle.

There needs to be conversation about more fruitful ways in which to disagree. We need to make the strength and vigor which comes of public conversation available to us. This is something a technical education does not offer by itself – we’ll have to work for this one. We must be aware of the dangers of philosophical bankruptcy, how we are wasting many opportunities by neglecting self-examination.


MIT ROCSA name change software

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

I’ve made the python scripts I wrote for counting the MIT ROCSA name referendum votes available here: